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Overcoming the challenges of OCD

For this post, I enlisted the help of my client, who over the last year has been attending Solution Focused Hypnotherapy sessions with me. We wanted to share her journey with other people struggling to take back control from the rituals, intrusive thoughts, and anxiety, OCD can bring.

We begin by tackling the cliches, and lack of understanding that surrounds OCD. How often do you hear, 'oh that wonky picture is messing with my OCD', or 'He likes everything really neat and tidy, he must have OCD'. OCD sufferes are often portrayed in the media as quirky, odd, or incredibly organised. Due to a lack of understanding around the subject, OCD is used a lot as a label for something it isn't.

So for those of you that don't know, what exactly is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition defined by the sufferer needing to perform 'rituals' or 'safety behaviours in order to alleviate anxiety. These rituals can manifest in any area at all; hygiene, hoarding, avoidance, cleaning are just some examples - but there are no rules as to where they may show up in a sufferes life. They aren't always accompanied by action either, 'Pure O' is a form of OCD where their is no outward, physical sign of a ritual. It is purely thought patterns.

These rituals are accompanied by intrusive thoughts, which can feel like they are shouting at the sufferer. Imagine you had a group of people shouting in your ear, but no one else could see or hear them. This is the strain OCD can put on a person, and as you can imagine it makes it difficult to explain to others the internal battle you are fighting.

Rituals and intrusive thoughts are tiring, distressing, and can mean daily tasks take a long time. To accompany this there is the persistent doubt OCD brings, 'did I complete that ritual fully, do i need to do it again?', and also something called magical thinking. This is similar to superstitiion, 'I musn't step on a crack in the pavement or something terrible will happen'.

Now we've built up a picture of how intrusive, distressing, and in some cases iscolating OCD can be, lets talk about how Solution Focused Therapy can help.

Mental health, brain disease. Stress, chaos in mind.

When my client first began her sessions with me she naturally felt aprehensive, She had tried several other things to help her gain control of her OCD, which unfortunately hadn't given her what she was looking for. Therefore the thought of opening up and trying something new was nerve wracking.

At the end of the first session, she noticed that she already felt better than she had done before the appointment. We were able to do the appointment online, and this meant she was comfortable in her own surroundings, avoiding the extra anxiety of a new environment.

The first difference my client noticed as her sessions progressed was her anxiety lowering. This meant she found she was able to put things in perspective better, improving her coping stategies when something stressful happened.

'I found myself thinking - that happened before and I was ok, nothing bad happened, so i will be ok this time. I became able to safely, and gently challenge my thoughts. Learning the workings of the brain in bitesize chunks during the sessions really helped me understand what was happening in my own brain when things felt tough. I knew the thoughts were coming from the primitive part of my brain, and ultimately I was safe. The sessions have helped me get better at planning things in for myself that I know will be beneficial, like giving myself plenty of time around appointments and tasks, so I am not under unecessary pressure. The sessions have helped me feel more confident about making decisions, like moving out of where I was living, a situation that had been causing me a lot of anxiety. The 'whats been good?' section of the sessions reminds me that doing this exercise really helps me, and this keeps me practicing it myself between appointments. 'Whats been good?' reminds me of all the positives, focussing me away from the negatives and towards the ways I can help myself. Time buffering, learning my own needs and triggers, and coming up with ways to accomodate them was so helpful. I have learnt to be kind and accepting of myself, and on a bad day I can keep things in preportion, knowing its one bad day and it won't last forever. This skill has strengthened througout the sessions. I now know things can be alright, and its ok not to be worrying all the time. Its a good thing not to worry, not a bad thing. I had grown so used to worrying all the time, then worrying if I wasnt worrying. I have slowly turned that around, I never thought anything would help, and this has. Like other people feel good after exercise, I feel good after my sessions. The Trance helps slow my intrusive thoughts down, relaxing and quietening my mind. It has made me notice other activities that give me the same feeling, like going to the cinema, or when Im working in my job as a musician. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy has made a tangible difference, when I didn't think anything else would. It has reduced the magical thinking, and given my brain a break from the relentlesss nature of OCD'.

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